January 18, 2022

At the start of the pandemic, it became clear that John Horgan wanted no part in the decision-making. This was intelligent for two main reasons: First and foremost, let the experts do their thing. Secondly, if the shit hits the fan, he can point fingers at the experts who messed it all up.

As frustrated and pissed-off and as much finger pointing as there has been, history will be very kind to the province of BC, especially when compared to other similar and comparable jurisdictions. And, to be honest, love her or hate her, the decision-making that has come from the PHO hasn’t been perfect, nor has it necessarily been consistent, but it’s been far more good than bad… and, to the greater benefit of all of us, has been driven by science and not politics.

I know a lot of people take exception to that, but it’s because you’re only comparing the local apples to themselves. Look around at other provinces, states and countries and you can see the astonishing damage being done by politically-driven agendas. I can assure you, it was not John Horgan who picked up the phone and said, “Hey Bonnie… you gotta open up those gyms, eh…”

And really, there’s no better proof than this recent gym debacle. Over the last seventy-two hours, there have been near-riots with respect to the messaging that come out of the PHO. That’s what happens when you let real doctors talk, and not political spin-doctors. A politician would have worded things very differently.

So… gyms have been shut down for a while. And a few hours before they’re hopefully set to re-open, the message we get is that they’re to remain “closed indefinitely”. What the PHO.

Could that have been worded any better? That’s not the right question. More like, could that possibly have been worded any worse? No. It could not have been worded any worse. If you really want to piss of everyone as much as possible and perhaps instigate some civil unrest, just make it sound like gyms are closed forever.

Indefinitely – what does that word mean? Here’s the textbook definition: “for an unlimited or unspecified period of time”. You know, that’s a big difference… and we’re all very used to it meaning the former, especially these days. A business putting up a sign that says they’re closed indefinitely comes shortly before the “For Lease” sign appears. Of course, nobody meant to imply that gyms are closed for good… but, even so, the word has this ominous ring to it, like it’ll be months. The Coquihalla Highway, which was very recently “closed indefinitely” (and we all thought it would be several months), is today open to all traffic.

If the PHO had managed to word things a little more clearly, it would’ve been a very different last couple of days: “Hey guys, we’re reviewing where we’re at. Numbers are certainly growing, but, around here, modelling shows that while hospitalizations may still rise a bit, we’re perhaps past the worst of it and can consider opening some things. On that list, of course, are gyms… and this week we’ll have more to say. Rather than arbitrarily announcing another month of closures, give us a few days to figure it out. Until then, they remain closed… but hang tight”. Jeez… that would’ve been a lot better, eh?

The unfortunate part of it is that there’s a demographic that thinks this is in response to all of the complaining. Like a bunch of mask-less people working out in Metrotown is what swayed the Provincial Health Office’s policy. No, it wasn’t. But you’ll never convince them, because that’s also the demographic that fails to see the big picture. Like… none of them were wearing masks, because, for some reason, supporting businesses and their right to operate also means you don’t believe in masks. Makes sense, right? Of course not.

We are all in the same boat, and the waters are rough… but if you look at the horizon, you can see the other boats that are a week or two ahead of us… and while it looks pretty stormy up head for the next little bit, beyond that there’s a hint of sunshine, blue skies and calmer water. Hopefully those who enjoy rocking the boat don’t make us all seasick… and I don’t mean that from a “infecting us all with Covid because they don’t wear masks” point of view. I mean it more from the incessant “us vs. them”, black/white right/wrong polarizing that this pandemic has imposed on all of us. We’ve all had enough.

January 13, 2022

When this whole crazy thing started two years ago, there was exactly one number that mattered: Daily New Cases. Indeed, it’s the only thing I was tracking when I first started writing about the pandemic, and I got pretty detailed in analyzing what it looked like. How fast was it growing? What’s the rate of change? What’s the rate of change of the rate of change? What degree of exponential growth is that? What’s the Time To Double?

Yes… if you were following this from the start, you inadvertently got a lesson in differential calculus, regression analysis, statistics and good old-fashioned estimation.

At the time, the reasoning was simple: You can’t get sick, hospitalized, intubated, ventilated or die… if you never got infected in the first place. Accordingly, that is *the* stat we need to watch.

Eventually, I added hospitalizations and ICU admissions and deaths to all of that, and, finally, of course, vaccination rates. The picture you see attached to this blurb has a lot of info on it… and, of course, Daily New Cases figures prominently.

A good question for the day is… Why? That number is now useless.

It’s not entirely useless, but let’s backtrack a bit. For a long time, and I do mean a long time… like since almost the beginning, there are people who’ve been saying the number is meaningless and useless and very much an undercount.

I don’t disagree that it’s an undercount; the question has always been by how much. And, more importantly, whether it’s been a consistent undercount. If so, then the number is still useful. To make it easy, let’s imagine the number is always off by an order of magnitude; by a factor of 10. Let’s call that the Factor of Undercount (FoU). With a FoU of 10, if Dr. Bonny says there were 154 new cases today, it was really 1,540. If she says it was 2,583, it was actually 25,830.

The reason it’s not useless in that scenario is because we can still analyze the trends. Basically, the shape of the curve, the slope of the line, the acceleration/deceleration… is all the same. If you take out the units from the X and Y axes, you’d never know the difference.

Also, whatever the numbers actually are, there’s no disputing the hospitalization numbers, the ICU numbers and the death numbers. Those ones we know exactly. So, again… with a consistent FoU, we can tell a lot with respect the load on the medical system.

Anyway, that used to be the case… but you’d have to be crazy… indeed, un peu fou… to believe any part of recent case numbers. For numerous reasons, we’ve certainly lost the consistent FoU, and with that, the numbers mean nothing.

It’s disappointing just what a massive failure our testing infrastructure has become, and it’s surprising. To some extent, the focus in this province has always been to make sure we don’t overwhelm the medical system. But to some other extent, the medical system doesn’t really want to deal with you at all, unless your condition is bad enough that it needs attention. The mantra of “stay home and isolate if you don’t feel well” trumps everything; test results are irrelevant. Unfortunately, there’s now absolutely no way to know who’s isolating, who’s walking around sick, who’s walking around infecting others, who’s walking around coughing behind their mask and not caring, who’s vaccinated, who’s not, etc. Contact tracing has gone out the window.

When we talked about overwhelming the medical system, we’ve always thought that meant hospitals… but it’s not just the hospitals; it’s everything else too. We are all, indeed, crazily overwhelmed.

So let’s look at what matters now: Hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths. The two graphs below the new case counts show what those three things look like. The top one, since last September. The one below it goes all the way back to September 2020, for context. Just how bad are things now compared to back then?

The answer is really good or really bad or somewhere in between, depending how you want to look at it. Hospitalizations are way up, of course. Record levels here and in all the big provinces. That’s not good. But proportionally, ICU cases aren’t following suit. That’s good. It’s the ICU cases that ultimately turn into deaths, so how’s that conversion rate looking?

Well, if things were kept proportional, we’d be seeing deaths at least 7x higher than they are. We’ve already agreed cases are well undercounted, so this example is actually even more extreme: Last January, Canada. saw 200,000 new cases… and 4,400 deaths. This January, which isn’t yet halfway done, we’ve seen 500,000 new cases and 871 deaths. If the death rate were the same as last January, we’d be facing more than 11,000 deaths this month.

And that’s the good news; this isn’t going to spiral crazily out of control. Because most of us are vaccinated and because Omicron is indeed less lethal and because we know a lot more these days about treatment.

I’m therefore going to stick with my optimistic hope that we’re nearing the end of this; not that it all goes away, but that we’re on the doorstep of when it becomes a seasonal pesky disease that’s manageable and treatable and, if you stay current with vaccinations, likely avoidable in any serious form.

I base that on the patterns of places that are a week or two ahead of us; new cases spike up very quickly and then very quickly spike right back down. Hospitalizations, etc. trail that, but Omicron is spikier in both directions compared to all of the previous variants. Two weeks from now might look surprisingly calm compared to where we are today. A month, for sure.

The thing is getting there, and most people are more than sick and tired of it. All of it. If you’d asked me at the start of this almost two years ago that by January 2022, I wouldn’t be that interested in daily case counts, I’d obviously have thought that it’s because it’s all over.

Crazy, I know.

January 6, 2022

Usually I know what I’m talking about (or, at least, think I do)… but I’ve been trying to figure something out, and I am going in circles. Some things require questioning.

There are 2.8 million people in BC who are 50 or older, of which some 700,000 are ages 50 to 60… and this particular demographic (which I’m part of) is the one who got their first shot in late April/early May, their second shot in late June/early July… and, therefore, have become eligible for the booster in recent weeks. The invites may have been sprinkling down like tiny snowflakes at first… but now… we’ve seen in recent days what a real snowfall can look like. Terrific. As soon as you get your invite, book your appointment. Hopefully you can get to it.

But wait… here’s the question: If you recently had Covid, should you wait for the booster? How long should you wait? Why?

So… I’ve asked a lot of people and I’ve read lots of articles and data, and the best response I can formulate when presently asked, is… “Good question!” or “I sincerely don’t know” or “Ask me in 6 months”.

Here in BC, we don’t get to find out what variant we had. They’re obviously collecting the data, but for some reason, don’t want to disclose it. I wish they did, as do many people, because it might make some difference in the chosen course of action, given that the present vaccines are designed for Delta and previous versions; the booster is too. There is no doubt that one, two and three vaccines confer protection against serious illness no matter what version you’re unfortunate enough to contract, so everyone should eventually get all of them. But the issue is… if you’ve recently had Covid as the result of a breakthrough infection (ie 90% of us who got sick in December), when should you get the booster? Pouring a cupful of boiling water into an already-boiling pot doesn’t do much… but if that large pot of water has cooled off a bit, then it does.

I got in a bit of trouble trying to ask this question in one of the BC Covid Facebook groups; the moderators refused to allow it, and gave me pithy and useless one-line responses to my questioning their attitude. Yes, I know you can get the booster 14 days after your symptoms subside. Yes, I know Dr. Henry said just get the booster as soon as you can, no matter what… and I understand where she’s coming from; she doesn’t want to see a flood hospital admissions, and the best way to achieve that given what we don’t yet know – and to umbrella to the whole issue – is to just get everyone as vaccinated as possible… as soon as possible. But that’s not necessarily a medical decision; it’s based on mitigating the local worst-case scenarios with respect to overwhelming the medical infrastructure. My counter-argument would be, “Sure, ok… but maybe someone else needs that booster more at this very moment.” Indeed, there is a lot of talk of “super-immunity” that you have (for a while… how long? A month? Two months? Three?) after a vaccine/vaccine/infection course. If I’m presently “super-immune”, why waste a booster on me right now? Depending who you ask, here are the recommendations:

BC says get it two weeks later.
Ontario says one month.
Quebec says two to three months.
One American article I read said up to six months.

I’m a big fan of Dr. Henry and usually agree with her, so it was interesting to be treated like some sort of anti-vaxxer just because I dared asked a question that threatened to go against the (present-day) gospel of our PHO.

As we all know, science evolves and, as we learn more, so do recommendations. Dr. Henry herself has course-corrected many times, as she should. I suspect this issue will evolve over time as well as more data is collected, analyzed and understood.

But in the meantime, there are all sorts of complicated reasons and mitigating factors going into these various opinions, and there are too many variables… and, of course, different places have different priorities and/or concerns. Vaccine shortages? Bed shortages? Percentage of population vaccinated? Which strain was the infection? Etc etc.

For what it’s worth, I’m leaning towards waiting a month to six weeks. I’m pretty certain I got Omicron given the symptoms, lack of symptoms, and course of the illness… and, that being the case, that covers me (for a while) from all presently-known strains. Certainly, I should be good till the end of the month, and then I’ll reconsider. Or, of course, I might read something in an hour that’ll change my mind. I’m counting on the fact that actual data and facts on the topic will emerge every day, and my (and everyone else’s) opinions and decision making won’t be based on just rudimentary data, speculation and gut feel. And if you’re in the same boat, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments; I’d love to hear where you’re thinking is at.

On a separate note, one that requires no speculation or changing opinions… we’ve been hearing for a long time that if you’re sick and/or unvaccinated, stay away from people who may have compromised immune systems. As healthy and immune as you may be from contracting the illness, not everyone is so lucky. So, stay away.

Even if you choose not to stay away, the potential victim usually has a say. If you’re not vaxxed but your relative is, and they tell you to stay the hell away, they themselves can flee the scene if you’re so entitled as to impose yourself upon their presence.

But… that’s not always the case, and the specific case I want to talk about are babies.

Human babies are pathetically frail when compared to other mammals. Some animals are good to go on their own mere hours after being born. It’s only humans that rely on parental protection for so long. Years, not hours. Babies depend on us to keep them safe, and the reason I mention this is that a recent article pointed out a very simple stat that speaks for itself: All of the babies presently hospitalized in Ontario due to complications from Covid-19… are from unvaccinated mothers. All of them. One hundred percent.

Yes… some other things don’t require any questioning at all.

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